A spring snow in the 1864 Winter Encampment

If you live in Culpeper, Virginia then today’s forecast calls for snow.  Not a lot, but some snow on this sixth day of spring.  Maybe Mother Nature is following the sesquicentennial yet again.  Yesterday I cited Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s reference to a snow near the end of March 1864.  Wainwright half-complained about “… four inches of snow…” which fell on March 22nd.  Another writer in the Winter Encampment enjoyed this early spring snowstorm.  On March 25, 1864, Colonel J. Howard Kitching of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery wrote:

… Tuesday we had a regular old-fashioned snow-storm.  The snow fell to the depth of about eight inches, and Wednesday morning cleared up as bright as could be, the sun making everything sparkle and glisten like gold. Some of my men made me a little rustic sleigh, to which I harnessed my two horses, and gave Mrs. Colonel [Henry S.] Burton a sleigh ride; the only sleigh, I guess, that has ever appeared in the Army of the Potomac.

Yesterday [Thursday, March 24] we had the grandest fun!  The men from the different companies began to snowball each other; so I divided the regiment into two wings, about two hundred men upon each side.  I took command of the right wing, and gave the Lieutenant-colonel and Major the left, and after inviting Colonel and Mrs. Burton out to see the sport, we had a scientific snowballing.  The battle lasted for about an hour, but although the left wing had the most men, yet my wing drove them off the ground, simply by tactical maneuvering.

No one was killed, but several wounded, including many officers. Three or four of them have black eyes to-day; but all enjoyed it very much, and the frolic did the men a great deal of good. It certainly did me a service, for I have been so blue lately, and have been so confined, and felt so discouraged, that the effect of a hearty laugh was beneficial….

Clearly the 25 year old Kitching had more fun in the snow that stuffy old thirty-something Wainwright.  However, Kitching closed that section of his letter remorsefully – “I am beginning to feel very old – older every day!”  Kitching had a little over nine months more to age.

(Citation from Theodore Irving, “More than Conqueror’ or Memorials of Col. J. Howard Kitching, Sixth New York Artillery, Army of the Potomac, New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1873, pages 116-7.)


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